Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Stately” – Erin’s write-up
Hello, lovelies! This week graces us with a straightforward state nickname theme:
- 17a. [Show biz parent, maybe] STAGE MOM. The Gem State is Idaho.
- 21a, [Aspiration for neither the over- or under-achiever] TO BE AVERAGE. Oregon is the Beaver State.
- 40a. [Bedsheets, tablecloths, etc.] HOUSEHOLD LINENS. The Old Line State is Maryland.
- 58a. [Slide whistle-playing Simpsons character] SIDESHOW MEL. Missouri is the Show Me State.
- 66a. [Supernatural witch of Slavic folklore] BABA YAGA. The Bay State is Massachusetts.
TO BE AVERAGE and HOUSEHOLD LINENS seem a little contrived to me, but other than that it’s a fine basic theme. Now onto other things:
- 62a. [Pro runner?] POL. I’m reading this as a POL is someone who runs for office professionally.
- 9d. [Social media and computing elite] DIGERATI. This term is new to me, but apparently not to the indie game company or tons of IT companies using it in their names.
- 30d. [Person who may not feel romantic attraction, for short] ARO. I love seeing this in the grid, but I have a question whether including “romantic” in the clue and using the abbreviation for “aromantic” as the answer constitutes a dupe. Kind of like when someone believes that the OP in OPED stands for “opinion” and not “opposite” and calls out a clue for OPED containing “opinion,” which I’m sure I’ve done before I learned the truth. (I can’t think of a correct similar example or I’d use it.)
- 5a. [Prince Buster’s genre] SKA. He was born Cecil Campbell in Kingston and was a major influence in the development of ska and rocksteady in Jamaica in the 1960s.
Until next week!
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 580), “Stirring Rendition”—Ade’s take
Hey there, everybody! I hope you are all doing great as summer rolls on! Can you believe that the year is more than half over? Geez!
Today’s puzzle is more fun with anagrams, as the second words in the four longest entries in the grid are all anagrams of each other. That aspect is highlighted in the clue to the reveal, SELMA, which is smack dab in the middle of the grid (39A: [Famed 1965 march site which is anagrammed in four themed answers]).
- ALPHA MALES (17A: [Leading men?])
- ELEANOR SMEAL (23A: [President of the Feminist Majority Foundation and author of “How and Why Women Will Elect the Next President”])
- WINSTON SALEM (50A: [Site of Wake Forest University])
- HAPPY MEALS (60A: [Fast food offerings for kids])
If I was born in a different decade, I might have had the chance to ask someone to do the FRUG with me (19A: [1960s dance]). How would this have gone down: “Hey, (fill in the blank), why don’t we frug together?” Well, I guess if I was born in a different decade, I might have been caught a few times wearing a NEHRU jacket as well (51D: [India’s first prime minister]). OK, maybe it was best that I was born when I was was then! If it wasn’t for some big news in the NCAA world breaking a few weeks ago, I would definitely have highlighted LOOS in the next graph, in reference of former Austin Peay State University men’s basketball head coach Dave Loos (37A: [London lavatories]). Well, I guess I’ll do that a bit now. Loos coached the Governors for 27 years and racked up 420 wins at the Clarksville, Tennessee, university, leading them to the NCAA Tournament four times: 1996, 2003, 2008 and 2016. Also, this is the perfect time to mention that, at Austin Peay games, fans have been heard supporting the teams by chanting, “Let’s Go Peay!” (Peay is pronounced like the letter “p.”)
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: UCLA (16A: [Golden State sch.]) – Soon enough, this entry will have a clue that reads something like this: [Golden State school in the Big Ten.] If you haven’t heard the news by now, UCLA and USC, bedrocks of the Pac-12 Conference, announced their intentions to become members of the Midwest-based Big Ten Conference, with the Big Ten officially approving the moves two weeks ago. The California schools will become members of the league starting in 2024. Why did this happen, you ask? Well, money. Lots of it. The next TV deal that the Big Ten Conference will negotiate with potential suitors may be worth in upwards of a billion dollars. According to NPR, the Pac-12 distributed $19.8 million per school in the 2021 fiscal year, while the Big Ten’s distribution in that same time period was $46.1 million. Also, the visibility gained from being in the Big Ten compared to the Pac-12, where a number of college football and basketball games end past midnight on the East Coast, played a massive role. Nothing says being in the Midwest more than palm trees, Hollywood, and Rodeo Drive, right?
Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!
Karen Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
A nice, breezy Tuesday puzzle that achieves smooth fill despite the triply checked circled letters in the theme! PICOT and ANODE are a bit on the tough side for a Tuesday puzzle (especially PICOT), I grant you, but the crossings are solid.
The theme is about the body’s internal clock:
- 16a. [Approximate length of 57-Across], TWENTY-FOUR HOURS.
- 57a. [Body’s internal clock patterns, regulated by the phenomenon seen in the circled letters], SLEEP-WAKE CYCLE.
- 5a. [Light time] is DAY, 66a. [Dark time] is NIGHT, and the circled letters depict sort of a sine wave spelling out CIRCADIAN RHYTHM.
Back in my medical editing days, I edited a number of continuing education articles in sleep medicine, so this theme’s right up my alley. It bears noting that not everyone’s circadian rhythm hews to a 24-hour cycle—non-24-hour sleep wake disorder is a real thing that entirely wreaks havoc on the ability to keep to a regular work or school schedule. Circadian stuff is so fascinating.
Three more things:
- 2d. [Descriptor of the 1%?], LOW-FAT. As in 1% milk. Great clue!
- 49a. [Pull some strings?], STRUM. Guitar or harp strings, for example. Nice trickery for a Tuesday.
- 39d. [It’s warmed at Chipotle], TORTILLA. How is Chipotle these days? Have they managed to stop having foodborne illness outbreaks like they used to? I remain afraid to eat there, but there’s a very conveniently located Chipotle I’ve been eyeballing.
Four stars from me.
Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Peak Performance”—Jim P’s review
“MOUNT UP!” is today’s revealer (36a, [“Let’s ride!”…or a hint to this puzzle’s circled letters]). The other theme answers—all in the Down direction—are familiar phrases that hide the name of a “mount” going upward in the circled letters.
- 10d. [The Glass City] TOLEDO, OHIO. Mt. Hood.
- 15d. [Sparkling Italian wine] ASTI SPUMANTE. Mt. Etna.
- 18d. [Hogwarts professor nicknamed “Mad-Eye”] ALASTOR MOODY. Mt. Doom. (Fictional, from the Lord of the Rings books). “Moody” came immediately to mind, but I needed help with the spelling of the first name.
- 26d. [Very soft, musically] PIANISSIMO. Mt. Sinai. Nice find.
Not bad. I wish there was another fictional entry to balance things out or else I’d rather see them all be real places. I do appreciate that they are all names that follow the title “Mount,” as opposed to mountains that are known only by a single name (like Denali or Matterhorn) or those that precede the word “mountain” (like Stone Mountain).
As for the revealer, I really wanted SADDLE UP, since that feels more common, but obviously, that doesn’t work for the theme.
Fun fill: LINE DANCES, DIAPER BAGS, RAIN MAN, TADPOLE, STONERS, STAN LEE. I’ve never heard of a CORN BIN, and it seems most sites use the term “grain bin,” but I’ve also seen the term “corn crib.” I do believe I’ve come across the brand MIELE [High-end appliance brand], but I still needed every crossing.
Clues of note:
- 16a. [Soap opera plot device]. COMA. Well, AMNESIA didn’t fit.
- 21a. [People refusing to stay off the grass?]. STONERS. Ha!
Not a perfect grid, but it has a fun aha moment, and the fill is quite nice. 3.5 stars.
Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up
The big feature of this grid is the stairstep stacking of five nine-letter entries. It’s so smoothly done that I didn’t even notice the feat during the solve, despite being held up by the unfamiliar MARIAMA BÂ (30a [“So Long a Letter” author]) anchoring the enterprise. She seems worth learning about, so I’m supposing that’s the reason she appears centrally like this.
Drop a couple of those As and you have MARIMBA—so you know something of what I’ll be sharing later on, music-wise.
Those five entries—MINECRAFT, LEFT ALONE, MARIAMA BÂ, GET IN LINE, MUDSTAINS—are transfixed by a pair of 12-letter entries flanking another niner—A MILE A MINUTE, SEMIFINALIST (16d [Person who didn’t lose a quarter]), MENTALIST.
- 39a [Florida city that’s home to the GaYbor District] TAMPA. A play on the historic Ybor City.
- 7d [Tiny-armed dino] T-REX. Not really so tiny, just relatively so.
- 11d [ __ versus impact (what is meant by one’s actions versus how they affect others)] INTENT. New phrase for me, but thanks to the expansive clue it was easily inferrable.
- 26d [Cherokee septet] CLANS. These are organizations within Cherokee society, distinct (I believe) from the three major tribes. I mean, I think the clan system exists within Cherokee societies, whatever the tribe.
- 32d [Sections of some keyboards, for short] NUMPADS. Am always flustered when using a computer keyboard lacking a dedicated number pad.
- 33d [Type of competition whose champions are virtually unmatched?] ESPORTS. Fancy footwork in that clue.
- 35a [1990 thriller with the line “I’m you’re No. 1 fan”] MISERY. RIP James Caan (1940–2022).
- 36d [Beauty-supply purchases] LASHES. Feels as if it needs a ‘casually’ sort of qualifier.
- 45d [The Mauna __ Syllabus (2020 scholarship-curation project)] KEA. This entry, too, seems intentionally didactic, so I’ll oblige with a link to the official site.
Catherine Cetta’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up
Cute theme! Each theme answer has circles at the beginning and end and the circle contain a food. I was trying to make a meal out of the entries and that didn’t work. Turns out they had something else in mind.
- 17a [*Performer who may wear harem pants] is a BELLY DANCER. BEER.
- 25a [*People in a love-hate relationship] are FRENEMIES. FRIES.
- 36a [*Body-lifting exercises] are CHINUPS. CHIPS.
- 47a [*Veers from the straight and narrow] is BREAKS BAD. BREAD.
The revealer is at 56a. [Dieting advice, and what the answers to the starred clues literally do] is CUT THE CARBS.
Now I want bread. I’m not familiar with BREAKS BAD as an expression. I know it’s the title of a TV show and haven’t heard it in any other context.
A few other things:
- I’ve never seen the tadpole spelled POLLIWOG. I’ve always seen POLLYWOG and the Google Ngram viewer confirms that it’s more common that way.
- Alan ALDA shows up in crosswords on the regular. No surprise there. When he shows up in two major outlets on the same day clued with the same movie….just saying there might be some kind of conspiracy. Or something.
- Mmm, CADBURY eggs. Mmm.
- I’ve never seen NOG used by itself outside of crosswords. Never.
- I read the clue for 41d as [McGuffin meat option] rather than [McMuffin meat option]. Much easier to figure out that it’s SAUSAGE once I read it correctly.
Kevin Shustack’s Universal Crossword, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Phrases that start with M and end in E and have a synonym for “friend” in the middle. A very literal representation of the title.
- MUNICIPAL CODE
- MOCHA BROWNIE
- MALIBU BARBIE
- MORALLY OPPOSE
Just two days ago, I solved a Universal puzzle in Across Lite format that should’ve employed circles, but didn’t. It was annoying, but I thought “Well, at least they’ve realized that offering two versions (and therefore two different solve experiences) of the same puzzle is absurd and unfair.” Today, we’re back to circles in the Across Lite, but still convoluted, difficult to interpret directions in the version online and in print… you know, the version most normal solvers would be likely to find.
Which is it? Where is the consistency?
And what novice solver is going to enjoy solving a crossword with these directions in one of the clues: (added directions for solvers who solve online or in print) […In this answer, note the first + last letter and letters 7-9]. That’s assuming the letter numbers match the hidden word (I haven’t double checked this time, but sometimes they don’t double check either).
Like, I get it. They want to compete with other publications and offer clever themes, like this one. But at the moment, they can’t. This puzzle should employ two different visuals- perhaps shaded boxes for the M and E and circles for the “friend” synonym. But they can’t do that.
Okay, maybe they can with the “workaround,” but they certainly shouldn’t. It’s like, let’s say you were severely lactose intolerant, but you want to be able to do keg stands at the local milk bar with the rest of the cool cats. You can. Not a good idea. And if the rest of the cool cats applaud you when your turn is up and the explosive diarrhea ensues, rest assured it’s a sarcastic golf clap.
Anyway, as I said, I enjoyed the theme of this one. Clever and consistent interpretation of the title. Never tried a MOCHA BROWNIE! Sounds yummy. Very strange clue for MALIBU BARBIE, no? [Piece of plastic found on the beach?] I see what it’s going for, but I think it’s quite wide of the target.
I enjoyed the apt clue for ASHE [Tennis great found in “smashes”].
I’m quite confident it irks the very good editing team at Universal that they are unable to use circles like the rest of the competition. I’m out to sea as to why they think confusing directions are a viable workaround. I’ve frequently seen novice solvers try to independently interpret those directions with 100% failure rate. Universal should be a welcome place for new solvers imo, and more often than not, it is. But, from what I have seen, this “workaround” to the proper visual aid is a big turnoff.
1.5 stars without circles. 4 stars if properly represented.
Brooke Husic & Erik Agard’s USA Today Crossword, “Box Set” — Emily’s write-up
Boxy fun! Square in the best sense of the nerdy connotation. Though at first glance the grid feels like it’s gonna be potentially choppy due to the way everything is laid out, it actually feels really smooth and has great flow to it still. So smart and enjoyable!
Theme: the word “block” can be added to the first word of each themer to form a new phrase
- 12a. [Working for a better tomorrow], BUILDINGAFUTURE
- 1d. [Group of people working on TV scripts], WRITERSROOM
- 9d. [Discovering unexpectedly], STUMBLINGACROSS
- 49a. [Full, like this puzzle], CHOCKABLOCK
Todays theme is more involved than usual, at least for me puzzling it out, so h/t to Sally and her blog for helping me understand today’s theme. The revealer CHOCKABLOCK gives us the common thread of “block”, along with the savvy hint in its cluing too. Once filled in, it becomes clear that there are a lot of blocks in the puzzle, in the grid and themers. BUILDINGAFUTURE, which is an excellent themer in and of itself, gives us a BUILDING BLOCK. WRITERSROOM can be plagued with WRITERS BLOCK. And STUMBLINGACROSS usually implies that there wasn’t a STUMBLING BLOCK.
Favorite fill: UPDO, WRITERSROOM, TOWELRACK, and MORELATER
Stumpers: ATTEND (only “arrive” came to mind), THO (just don’t use the shortened version so needed crossings), and ALU (needed crossings)
For added fun, the themers intersect with each other and one of the themers also intersects with the revealer. They visually form a box, though they don’t fully connect four ways. Very cool grid indeed and what a feat to pull off! The grid is also oddly satisfying as well, like a piece of art.